Album art seems less and less important these days to some, where in reality it is still greatly important and an important way to make your release stand out. In order to do it right there are many considerations and little details that are easy to mess up. Hopefully, we can help you to avoid those in this series.
One of the keys to good artwork is making sure it works with your release. If you are a band with a serious image and use light colors and have CareBears and Teletubbies hugging all over your record cover you are going to give people who see your record cover an impression that you might not be up your alley. Just as a band who sings about making out with girls and high school troubles may not want to put a robot shooting pedestrians on their album cover. Having a record cover that is both visually striking and represents what the music held will help brand your music and help potential fans get a sense of what they are getting into if they give your music a listen.
One of the first things to think about is if you want your group to come off as a leader or a follower. Some musicians choose to market themselves as identifying with a genre by making sure they stick to some identifying marks (read: cliches) of the genre. For example if you are an electro group, neon colors and sharp photoshopped images are a quick calling card of the genre. Whereas a Black Metal Group, will have a hand drawn, nearly illegible logo that brings to mind Evil and Satanic imagery. If you want to be known as part of a genre it is smart to take some of these traits so your fans are able to tell you are a part of the movement.
Some groups will choose to stand out from the crowd and be leaders. This will often take more work, but it is what separates the leaders from the followers. Being able to make a record cover that aligns with your music’s themes and doesn’t look derivative of the genre will help establish your group as one of the leaders of it’s scene. While this can often be a subliminal result, this is an easy way to establish who you are in comparison to your peers.
It has been said that the best pieces of album artwork can be recognized from across a record store. While record stores are going the way of the Dodo, this still stands true in a digital world. A memorable record will be able to be recognized from a far and not immediately make you think of another record (unless satire is your business) and write the release off as being derivative.
Bringing It Together
The best pieces of album artwork are one’s that are visually striking and yet still goes well with the album’s identity. I often find it helpful to think about album covers that have struck me in the past and analyze what struck me about them and what they did to bond image with the tone of the music. These thoughts can often help translate to an artist some of what you need from them. If you put this thought into your release you are off to a start that will usually bring you a result you are much happier with and will help listeners bond with your release more than they would if you just winged it.